Monthly Blog - February 2019

Our Commonalities Outweigh our Differences

Ready, Set... Time to Say Please and Thank You Again.

We have more in common than we realize.

The latest research confirms: basic values of charity and fraternity are the cornerstones of successful societies.

All societies are held together by seven universal moral codes.

Morality (from Latin: moralis, lit. ‘manner, character, proper behavior’) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper.

The Bemba in Zambia show ‘a deep sense of respect for elders’ authority’. Among the Tarahumara of Mexico, ‘respect for the property of others is the keystone of all interpersonal relations’. In Korea, there exists a ‘egalitarian community ethic of mutual assistance and cooperation among neighbors.

“This [research] shows there really is more that unites us than divides us.”

The study, published by Current Anthropology is the largest and most comprehensive survey on morals ever conducted. Its aim was to find out whether different societies had different versions of morality.

The research team accessed the world’s best ethnographic archives at Yale University to analyze more than 600 sources, of 60 societies from around the world.

“Everyone everywhere shares a common moral code,” said Dr. Oliver Scott Curry, lead author and senior researcher at the Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University.

The seven moral rules appear to be universal across cultures because people often face the same social problems.

The universal rules are:

  • Help your family
  • Help your group
  • Return favors
  • Be brave
  • Defer to superiors
  • Divide resources fairly
  • Respect the property of others

Encompassed within the code: caring for frail relatives, passing on property to offspring, going to war if needed to protect the group and respecting elders.

The character traits held for every kind of community, whether they be traditional hunter-gatherers or advanced western civilizations, which helps to uphold the framework of a civilized society and foster social cooperation, researchers found.
“…not everyone in society is an angel, and you’re going to get some bad guys but [the study] shows there are similar underlying values across all cultures,” added Dr. Curry.

The study was based on historical descriptions of cultures around the world. The descriptions were made independently of, and prior to, the theory being tested.

Given the current climate of negativity and gun violence in our own country, it may serve us well to step back, remember our history and move forward with a clear vision of those things in our society that need our attention.

We need to promote mutual understanding between people of different cultures and an appreciation of what we have in common.

We need to treat each other with respect. Our society’s survival depends upon it.


Because our commonalities far outweigh our differences.

Dr. Patricia Tice is the owner of Etiquette Iowa. She can be reached at

Dr. Patricia Tice
Etiquette Iowa/Agri Manners
P.O. Box 396
Adel, Iowa 50003